Friday 30 July 2010

Across the Rockies

Ten days into my Pacific Northwest Trail hike and I've crossed the Rocky Mountains. The first five days were in the glorious rock and ice scenery of Glacier National Park. There the trails are maintained, backcountry camp sites have to be booked inuyb advance, and a permit listing many conditions is required. The mountains are busy and I met many hikers and at least one ranger every day and camped with others every night. I loved the landscape but it did not feel like a wilderness trip, though a tremendous thunderstorm on day four did add a little excitement. Then I left Glacier for the Whitefish Mountains, via the entertaining and friendly hamlet of Polebridge. Suddenly there were no rangers, no permits, no camp sites and no other hikers. I had the wilds to myself. The trails were often overgrown, sometimes hard to find and I had to hunt out camp sites in the dense forest. The hills were lower than in Glacier but felt wilder. The weather went from thundery to heatwave and there was little water on the long ridges followed by the Whitefish Divide and Highline Trails. By the time I dropped down to the Tobacco Plains and the little town of Eureka I felt the walk had really begun. Next comes a week in the even wilder Purcell Mountains.

Sunday 18 July 2010

Preparing For The Trail

Issaquah on warm summer evening. Two days of sorting supplies, last minute planning and walks in the lovely forests of the Issaquah Alps. Two young black bears watched us from the trees today. Tomorrow the long drive east to Montana and Glacier National Park with my cousin and her daughter. Then the walk begins.

All photos with my Pacific Northwest Trail reports are taken with the HTC Desire phone.

Sunday 4 July 2010

Scandinavia End-to-End

Many years ago I spent a rather wet summer hiking south to north through Norway and Sweden. I never wrote much about this walk - just one magazine article as far as I remember - as there was little interest in it despite it passing through some of the wildest and most spectacular landscapes in Western Europe. Nowhere else in our crowded continent can you walk 2200 kilometres in roughly a straight line and be in wild country most of the time. Publishers however did not find Scandinavia interesting and where the Yukon was seen as romantic and the Munros as popular, and so my long walks in both worth books, Norway and Sweden were seen as unknown and dull. I had thought the walk long forgotten until a Swedish backpacking acquaintance, Jörgen Johansson, contacted me to say he'd mentioned it to members of the Nordic Lightpacking group on a recent meet and they were interested to know more about my trip. An interview followed and can be found on Jörgen's site here. The Nordic Lightpackers know now that this was not a lightweight trip!

Photo info: the walk took place long before digital cameras and I've never scanned any of the slides I took so I have no digital images. Instead here's a winter picture of the Hardangerjøkulen, an ice cap in southern Norway that I walked below and which I have skied up on several occasions. Canon 300D, 18-55mm lens @45mm, 1/125@f8, ISO 100, raw file processed in Lightroom 3.

Saturday 3 July 2010

August TGO – Pacific Northwest Trail Gear & Sleeping Mats

In the latest TGO (August issue, just out) my backpacking column is about the gear I’ll be taking on the Pacific Northwest Trail, which I’ll start hiking in less than two weeks. I also review 15 sleeping mats, including several interesting new models. Outdoor beds are becoming more comfortable and lighter weight, which is excellent. Elsewhere in gear John Manning reviews 15 pairs of shorts while in his Lighten Up column Eddy Meecham looks at ukuleles for backpacking!

There’s much of interest in this issue – the first under the editorship of Emily Rodway. Cameron McNeish, now freed to be Editor-At-Large, has a new column and begins by discussing walking barefoot, which should provoke some reactions. Emily herself interviews Eric Robson about the enduring appeal of Alfred Wainwright. In Peaks of Experience, Andrew Terrill captures well the special joy of his first ever backpacking trip. Other articles include Ian Johnson on little-known Bretherdale in Northern England; Bernard Newman on returning to the hills after a climbing accident with a scramble up the magnificent Forcan Ridge on The Saddle in the Western Highlands; Ed Douglas on Welsh lichens expert Ray Woods and the need for protection for the “Celtic rainforest” and Cameron McNeish trekking in the desert mountains of Jordan. In his column Jim Perrin conjures up the ghost of Edward Abbey and dreams of direct action against the despoliation of the Rhinogydd in Wales by signposts, plaques, bridges and duckboards. That might provoke a response too.

Photo info: With the Shangri-La 1 tent and Caldera Cone stove in the Glen Affric hills. Canon EOS 350D, Canon 18-55 at 55mm, 1/800@f8, ISO 100, raw file converted to JPEG in Lightroom 3.